HomeAmerican Studies Asiavol. 1 no. 1 (2002)

Headhunting William Jones: 58-Minute Video Documentary

Collis H. Davis Jr.

Discipline: History



This video documentary tells the story of the extraordinary odyssey of an Oklahoman Fox native from Indian Territory to the Harvard Club, and onto the wilds of headhunting country of Northern Luzon, Philippines (by the years 1907-1909). “Headhunting William Jones” explores themes of the assimilated Native American, the ethnologist as American patriot, and the scientist as Puritan. “Headhunting William Jones” argues for the importance of the emblematic story of this little-known American anthropologist to the field of Philippine-American history. One may regard William Jones (1871-1909) as a prism-like figure through which to see the complex motives of twentieth-century American imperial expansion into the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific. Of immediate biographic interest, certainly, is William Jones’ stellar success in educational achievement which was touted as an affirmation of the US Federal Indian educational policy. But his failure to distinguish between his highly moral and racial views of his Ilongot hosts, and that of primary scientific observation as an ethnologist among them, reveals character flaws in the scientist and the problematic aspects of the imperial enterprise that he embodied. This “failure,” I argue, eventually cost him his life.